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Trial of fresh 1,000 Boko Haram suspects begins today

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The Federal Goverment, through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN) will on Monday (today) resume the trial of suspected Boko Haram insurgents detained in various locations of the country.

A press statement by the Special Adviser to the AGF on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, said on Sunday that the second phase of the trial at the Kainji detention facility in Niger State would begin on Monday (today).

The statement said “Resumption of trial arose from the conclusion of investigation of over 1,000 suspects as ordered by the court during its proceedings of October 2017 by the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.”

He explained that suspects with prima facie cases would be prosecuted, while others without it would have applications made for their discharge.

According to him, “those discharged will undergo a process of de-radicalisation.”

Isah said the de-radicalisation exercise would be conducted by the Office of the National Security Adviser the concerned suspects would be released to their various families.

He added, “Recall, this exercise which is a concerted effort of the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Office of the National Security Adviser kicked off in Kainji, Niger State on Monday, October 9, 2017.

“Four judges were allocated to four dedicated courts to handle the trial located in a military facility in Kainji while defence counsel were provided for those suspects without capacity to hire private legal practitioners to defend them.

“Unlike the first phase which was restricted, this phase is opened with some civil society groups, including human rights organisation and journalists invited to witness the proceedings.

“Already, about 82 Boko Haram detainees have so far benefitted from the Federal Government’s window to plead guilty to secure low jail terms or unconditional release which is part of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s concerted effort to boost its human right records and decongest the nation’s prisons.

“As a result, about 45 convictions have also been pronounced by the trial judges in the four syndicated courts established by then acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Abdu Kafarati. The various Boko Haram suspects were sentenced to jail terms ranging from two years to 15 years and with most of them backdated to the date of their detention.

“There are four categories of suspects at the Kainji detention facility who are classified as Boko Haram suspects who were hitherto investigated by the Joint Investigation Team set up by the Defence Headquarters otherwise known as DHQ/JIT.

“The case files of the suspected insurgents were then transmitted to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and after a careful review of the cases based on their individual merit, it was discovered that they have no prima facie cases that will sustain a charge against them in any court of law.

“As a result, they were recommended for release and hand over to the Office of the National Security Adviser for rehabilitation and/or de-radicalisation.

“The second category is the set of suspects that the Honourable Attorney General established prima facie cases against and charges already filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division who are also mostly in the detention facility under reference and may be willing to plead guilty for a lesser sentences.

“The third category are the suspects whose case files are either recommended for further investigation or that have no investigation conducted on them at all hence they do not have case files that will warrant the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to form any opinion in respect of their case.

“Also, the fourth category is that of the suspects whose cases were reviewed and a prima facie were found and may be willing to opt for a full trial.”

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‘Thousands’ Flee to Cameroon as Boko Haram Hits Rann Again

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Suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Monday attacked Rann, leaving “thousands of people” running across the border to safety in neighbouring Cameroon.

In December, the insurgents had attacked the town, burning a UNICEF clinic— the only healthcare centre in the town.

Médecins Sans Frontières also known as Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international humanitarian medical organisation, on Wednesday said many are in a state of shock following the attack.

The organisation said it is providing food, water and emergency medical care to people arriving by foot in the Cameroonian border town of Bodo, roughly four miles from Rann.

“Our team in Bodo estimates that some 8,000 people arrived yesterday, and we expect several thousand more may come today,” Hugues Robert, MSF programme manager for Nigeria, said in a statement.

“We are preparing to assist 15,000 people with food, water and medical care over the coming days. Many were in a state of shock and were clearly distressed by what they had witnessed. Now they have lost all that they have and need absolutely everything.”

Children and pregnant women have reportedly spent nights outdoors as there are no shelters.

Many parts of the town of Rann were reportedly razed during the attack, including market and food stores. A warehouse, office and pharmacy belonging to MSF were also looted and burnt.

According to Isa Sadiz Bwala, an MSF nurse who visited Rann to assess medical needs, most of the residents have fled to Bodo, while some remained.

“What struck me when we arrived was the silence. Usually Rann bustles with life, but yesterday it was eerie and quiet, like a graveyard,” Bwala said.

“Usually kids run around and play, but yesterday the only ones I saw were standing around quietly, looking anxious. The town has been devastated and I was devastated to see it. Many parts of the town have been burnt. There was still smoke drifting in the sky and the fires were still burning in places.

“I met a woman who was just back from the burial of her elderly mother, who had died inside her burning home. She burnt to death inside because she couldn’t escape the fire.

“MSF’s base, office and pharmacy have been burnt to the ground. All that’s left are piles of ashes. When I arrived, the tent where we store our equipment was still on fire. The buildings of other humanitarian organizations have also been looted and burnt. Luckily, all of our staff from Rann are safe. Several have fled to Cameroon, along with the majority of the population of Rann.

“We evacuated one man with a gunshot wound. I was told that other people had been injured too, but it seems they have left for Cameroon. I saw a long line of people leaving for Cameroon—women, children and men, of all ages. Some had donkeys but many were just carrying their belongings. The ones I spoke to said they were leaving because they were too afraid to stay. There is not much left for them to stay for anyway: their homes are gone, and I don’t know what they would live on. The market was burnt and looted— food stores also.”

Calling on all warring parties to respect safety of civilians, Robert said the people of Borno suffer endless violence and it is devastating they continue to pay price for the conflict.

In March, the insurgents killed one of the health workers abducted in the town.

Sanni Usman, army spokesman, is yet to respond to inquiries on the attack.

Editor’s note: This picture was used for illustration

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At Least 103 Complaints Filed Against SARS

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No fewer than 103 complaints on human rights abuse have been filed against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr Tony Ojukwu, reported that the complaints were received by the Presidential Panel on SARS.

Ojukwu, who doubles as the chairman of the presidential panel, said this at the second sitting of the panel for the North-Central zone held at FCT High Court, Maitama, Abuja.

“Out of this number, the panel received 37 complaints from the North-Central zone, 37 from the South-West, 16 from the South-South, 9 from the South-East, 3 from the North-East and 1 complaint from the North-West,” Ojukwu said.

He said that hearing had been concluded on 51 complaints, while 52 complaints were still pending, adding that out of the 52 pending cases, 29 were part heard, while 23 were fresh complaints

The NHRC boss said that the public hearing of the Presidential Investigation Panel on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has yielded remarkable positive results in the Squad’s operations.

He said that the public hearings also serve as an avenue to sensitise public and SARS operatives.

According to him, there were instances the panel was informed that after getting hearing notice, some SARS operatives alleged to have violated human rights reached out to victims for settlements.

“It is interesting to note that the public hearing of the presidential panel on alleged cases of human rights violations against SARS has started yielding some remarkable positive results in the way SARS operatives now carry out their operations.

“There are instances where on the spot investigation over complaints that had lingered before the police were resolved by the panel leading to the recovery of cars allegedly auctioned by some SARS officers without due process.

“There are also cases where property seized or houses locked up by SARS have been released to their owners, among others,” he said.

Ojukwu said that since the constitution of the panel by NHRC on the request of the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), it had held four sittings in Abuja, Lagos, Owerri and Gombe.

On the challenges being faced by the panel, he explained that such included the failure of the police in some cases to conduct post-mortem examination on suspects alleged to have died in police custody.

Other challenges, he said, were failure of complainants to appear before the panel due to victimisation, intimidation and threats issued to them by some SARS operatives.

Also, unwillingness of complainants to appear despite assurances of their safety by the panel, among others.

He, however, warned that any case of intimidation of complainants or witnesses will be viewed seriously by the panel.

Ojukwu said, “there have been several cases where unruly SARS officers were disciplined by the panel.”

He, therefore, urged the Inspector-General of Police to assist and ensure that all complainants before the panel are not molested in anyway by SARS or police officers whose cases are before the panel.

He further assured stakeholders that the panel and the NHRC would adhere to the principles of fair hearing in discharging its functions.

Ojukwu added that the panel and NHRC would not stand to watch while fundamental human rights of citizens are trampled upon and violated by law enforcement agencies, entities or individuals.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the panel was set up by the Federal Government to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses by the men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

The panel is to make useful recommendations to the Federal Government on the way forward.

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Thugs Attack Saraki Family Quarter, Injure 11

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Hoodlums have invaded the Agbaji area of Ilorin, where the family residence of the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, is located.

No fewer than 11 people were reportedly injured when the hoodlums invaded the area and damaged 50 vehicles on Sunday.
Also, Solagberu and Aliagan mosques, as well as about five buildings in the area were damaged during the attack.

The incident, according to residents of the area, started at about 11.30am when armed thugs stormed the area and shot into the air to scare people away.

According to the President of Agbaji Development Association, Alhaji Olanrewaju Yusuf, the thugs were led by some stalwarts of an opposition party.

Yusuf claimed that one of the victims of the attack, a seven-year-old, died.

He said, “We learnt that a boy in Ode Alausa, just opposite this house (Saraki’s homestead), who was hit by a bullet has died. His name is Abubakare.”

When asked of about age of the boy, he said he was about six or seven years old. However, Yusuf’s claim could not be verified.

He said 11 people, who sustained injuries from gunshots, were taken to the General Hospital, Ilorin, and a private medical facility for treatment.

He said, “The thugs came around 11.30am and shot into the air. In fact, they were provided cover by the police. At least 11 people sustained injuries from bullets, while about 50 cars including that of Imam Aliagan were destroyed.

“The thugs also stole four motorcycles, money and jewelry from shops deserted by their owners”.

The violence, it was gathered, later spread to the Ajikobi and Omoda areas of Ilorin metropolis.

The Director General of the Peoples Democratic Party campaign council in the state, Prof. Suleiman Abubakar, said the violence was perpetrated by the All Progressives Congress leaders to instill fears in residents ahead of the elections.

The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Tunde Ashaolu, said the incident had validated the alarm raised by the Senate President on threat to his life.

Saraki hurriedly returned to Ilorin from Erin-Ile in the Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State where he had gone to address a political rally.

Saraki, during his visit to Agbaji quarters, urged his people to remain calm, saying they should not be provoked to carry out a reprisal.

The President of the Senate visited the General Hospital, Ilorin, to sympathise with the victims of the attacks.

The police spokesman in Kwara State, Ajayi Okasanmi, said that he would forward his reaction through an SMS to one of our correspondents. His reaction was still being awaited as of press time.

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